by Pim van Nes
From 1985 till 1995 Rotterdam welcomed baseball selections from Cuban capital Havana thanks to an agreement between the two cities mayors Dr Bram Peper (Rotterdam) and Dr Oscar Ferdinand Mell (Havana). In 1997 Cuban national federation decided to upgrade the delegation to the Netherlands and ever since World Port Tournament received a national selection of Cuban baseball players.
Cuba national team since 1997 always made it to the grand finale of the biannual editions in Rotterdam. The Red Machine won the tournament in 1997, 2001, 2003, (2005 WPT was not organised), 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2015. In the two other years Cuba lost the final game: versus the Netherlands in 1999 and versus Chinese Taipei in 2011. Alike in Rotterdam, their performances in World Championships and Olympic Games made Cuba the most succesful nation in global baseball.
This week Cuba still finished first in WPT round robin with 3 wins in 4 games, however, in the first play-off game Cuba was defeated by Japan 2-5 after two extra innings. In a co-Caribean backdoor semi-finale game, smaller Curacao turned out smarter than Cuba. Wrong fielders choices by Cuban third baseman and catcher delivered Cuba the fatal loss of 3-5 in the game and the first ever missing of WPT finale and WPT podium.
Cuban losing streak in WPT 2017 was extended to four in their last game versus the Netherlands: 3-1, decisive for 4th and 5th place in final ranking. This is the first time Cuba finished last in World Port Tournament, despite of opening with three consucutive wins (3-2 Curacao, 8-4 Japan and 7-6 Chinese Taipei). The last round robin game faced Cuba with hometeam the Netherlands and their first defeat: 1-6. This game result started the losing streak to the historic last place in WPT final ranking.